Miami Beach

Miami Beach commission defers Sunset Harbour height increase

This rendering shows a proposed mixed-use development project that could be built next door to one of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s properties in Sunset Harbour.
This rendering shows a proposed mixed-use development project that could be built next door to one of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s properties in Sunset Harbour. Provided to the Miami Herald

The bitter debate in Miami Beach over a developer’s desire to get a height increase for a planned retail and residential building in Sunset Harbour led commissioners to demand a compromise before holding a vote Wednesday.

Developer Deco Capital Group, LLC wants the city to grant an exception from current land-use regulations to build a mixed-use development on a stretch of lots along Purdy Avenue south of 18th Street. The current limit is 50 feet high, and the developer wants to go up to 90 feet for a project called Sunset Harbour Residences, which would have ground-floor retail, two levels of parking and 15 three-bedroom luxury condo units above that.

The plan requires a change to the city’s land-use laws, and the change would only apply to this project.

Residents in the neighboring Lofts at South Beach condominium have raised objections because it would block views of the bay, and nearby tow companies also oppose the project. Other residents in the neighborhood and nearby Belle Isle favor the project.

Attorneys representing the developer and tow companies have sparred over the issue, leading Commissioner Ricky Arriola to suggest deferring the item for 60 days to let all parties work it out.

The main item

On Wednesday, the commission discussed sending the Sunset Harbour issue to the city’s planning board. Mayor Philip Levine recused himself from the conversation amid ethics questions because he owns property next to the planned project and could benefit from increased property values.

Bradley Colmer, a principal of Deco Capital, told commissioners his goal is to make all of his neighbors happy.

“It’s ultimately about creating the ideal ground-floor experience which the whole neighborhood can enjoy,” he said.

Colmer also said he wanted to reach out to residents themselves to talk about compromise. He accused former Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who represents the board at the Lofts, of blocking communications with residents.

Wolfson, who was not present and cannot legally lobby before the commission, later told the Miami Herald that board members should be able to have their attorney present at negotiations about the project.

“I’m totally taken aback at the suggestion that my client is not entitled to an attorney during negotiations,” Wolfson said. “I never blocked information. I presented my client with everything I received. And they never offered to adjust height or setbacks.”

Commissioners agreed to defer the discussion for 60 days and urged all sides to reach a compromise.

Other business

The commission also voted to accept several recommendations made by a task force of Ocean Drive business owners to improve the iconic street. These include widening the west sidewalk by five feet and the left sidewalk by three feet, as well as improving lighting and increasing police presence.

They said it

“I’m not happy with either party. I think there’s been a lot nastiness and heavy-handedness on both sides.” — Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola, on the Sunset Harbour height-increase issue

You said it

“Our quality of life is not for sale.” — Nicholas Machado, resident of the Lofts who opposes the project next door

The next meeting

When: 5 p.m., March 16

Where: 1700 Convention Center Dr., third-floor commission chamber

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech